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This session explores right-wing politicization of knowledge in CEE, and the crisis facing critical social science there. Asking what drives such developments, and how imaginings of East/West divides shape them, we seek to better grasp their concrete dynamics, and how to resist and challenge them.
Critical social sciences face a difficult moment in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The expulsion of Central European University, and Gender Studies, from Hungary, the takeover of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences by the Orbán government, threats to close the European University at St. Petersburg, and the removal by Polish and Hungarian governments of cultural anthropology and ethnology from officially accredited disciplines are only the most visible forms of the right-wing politicization of knowledge in CEE countries. While often read as reinforcing Europe's East/West divide, such attacks are part of global conservative, neoliberal, and traditionalist turns. This roundtable explores the contexts, interpretations, and challenges of the politicization of critical social sciences in CEE. We ask: (1) What, and who, drives such developments? (2) How do the geotemporal politics of both the critical sciences and imaginings of an "East/West Divide" shape them, and (3) How can we challenge and resist them - without reinforcing them? We seek to complicate standard narratives of "populism" and "power-hungry elites" and ask how both right-wing movements and the critical sciences themselves have, through their attachments to various "Wests" and "Easts," together instantiated the borders which now pit them against one another? We also hope to explore concretely how individual academics and educational institutions can oppose attacks on critical, social science thinking in CEE and elsewhere. Do defenses of (the West's?) "academic freedom" offer safety? Is exile a solution? What solidarities - activist, academic, or political - offer strength and possibility?